SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Tuesday, November 4 meeting of the Saratoga Springs City Council was notable both for its content and its length. Despite the fact that this meeting was less than half as long as the preceding one on October 15, the council was able to accomplish significant business while allowing for adequate discussion where it was relevant.
Chief among these items was the passage, by a 5-0 roll call vote, of the amended 2014 city budget. In a concise presentation of general fund requests and changes, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan detailed each department’s requests and why or why not they were selected to be added to the amended budget.
The bottom line was that the general expense fund was increased by $113,000, with only $13,000 of that balanced with revenue from increased property tax. The remaining $100,000 came from increased revenue projections that Madigan felt confident could be reached. This means that the original 0.68 percent property tax increase projection was increased slightly to 0.76 percent. On a home with a $350,000 assessed value, this works out to an annual increase of $16.05 in 2014. Comments were generally supportive around the council table, and given the fact that the next day was Election Day for many of them, notably concise before unanimous passage.
Earlier in the meeting, a presentation by Saratoga Children’s Theatre’s (SCT) executive director Meg Kelly detailed a potential source of additional revenue for the city.
The Saratoga Music Hall, on the third floor of City Hall, is unused during 72 percent of its potential hours. Two systemic factors were identified that have led to this. The floor of the hall is not soundproofed to any extent, and thus the Music Hall cannot be used at all without disturbing the city court below when it is in session. Further, the hall currently cannot be used during the entire summer season because of the fact that it lacks air conditioning.
While Kelly certainly felt that SCT could increase its use of the Music Hall if these two conditions were resolved, she felt a more important role was to have her organization partner with the city to assure that the Music Hall had everything in place to make it available to many organizations as frequently as possible.
The presentation was very well received, notably by Commissioner of Public Works Anthony Scirocco, who sponsored the SCT presentation and noted that the Music Hall was a wonderful, underutilized space and that the city’s investment in these types of improvements would pay for themselves rather quickly. Scirocco also recommended exploring acoustic augmentations as well.
This would have to go through the RFP and capital budget process to actually proceed, but the council is rarely presented with an opportunity of this nature for an existing facility.
In other council news:
- Commissioner Madigan also delivered her third quarter financial report for the city, noting that they were generally on track against projections. She also detailed five excess fund balance recommendations from the 2012 budget, which the council passed unanimously.
- Commissioner Scirocco announced a Veterans Day ceremony at the Tempered by Memory memorial in High Rock Park
- Supervisors Matthew Veitch and Joanne Yepsen both gave their perspectives on the proposed 2014 Saratoga County Budget (see Week in Review, page 4).
- Public Safety Commissioner Mathiesen received unanimous approval to amend the city code to allow for a stop sign on the intersection of Ludlow Street and Jumel Place; and to have alternate side-of-the-street parking in effect each day during the Saratoga Thoroughbred racing meet.
Mathiesen called upon Police Chief Greg Veitch to read a statement regarding the SSPD’s conduct during and after the late night incident involving Darryl Mount, Jr. (See the featured story).